The international crew of Soyuz MS-01 have returned to Earth! Anatoly Ivanishin, Takuya Onishi, and Kate Rubins landed in Kazakhstan today. The lighting was phenomenal, and this is I think the clearest image I’ve ever seen of a Soyuz landing. You can see all the parachute lines and everything.
And the video is really good too. Watch right at the very beginning as you see puffs from the pyrotechnics firing to jettison the heat shield:
Earlier this week, the first Soyuz MS completed the first leg of its maiden voyage, arriving at the ISS right on time and docking smoothly. The spacecraft’s enhancements include satellite communications to make use of the new Luch spacecraft communications constellation (an analog to NASA’s TDRSS), navigation via both GLONASS and GPS, a phased-array radar to reduce the number of antennas needed, and more efficient thrusters and power system. The second Soyuz MS, due to fly in September, will also take a lengthy rendezvous to enable comprehensive testing, but after that they should be able to return to the six-hour ascent profile.
The crew have joined the ISS Expedition 48 crew, and will remain on the station into Expedition 49, to return home in November.
The newest model of the venerable Soyuz spacecraft has reached orbit! As it’s a new model, it will not be taking the rapid ascent flight profile, and will instead spend the next couple of days gradually working its way towards the ISS while the crew performs testing to validate the new vehicle.
The crew are commander Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, flight engineer Takuya Onishi of JAXA, and flight engineer Kate Rubins of NASA. Ivanishin is making his second spaceflight; Onishi and Rubins are both rookies.
New features on the Soyuz MS include more efficient solar arrays, an improved Kurs rendezvous and docking system that does not require as many antennas (which has been an issue in the past; the additional antennas represented additional possible points of failure), digital video from the docking camera for the first time on Soyuz, a new navigational system, new sensors for guidance and attitude control, and the capability to use Russia’s tracking and data relay satellites. Soyuz has in past been confined to communications with ground stations. Unlike other countries, Russia has been able to get by with that, since it simply has so much ground to put stations on! But this will allow communications during almost a complete orbit, as NASA has enjoyed with Shuttle and now Station for decades.
Although this is the first crewed flight of Soyuz MS, the new systems have been tested in space — the same upgrades were made on the Progress MS series, of which there have been two so far. The third Progress MS is now scheduled to fly July 16.